Do you recall Pippi Longstocking, the fictional heroine of many beloved children’s books and films, who had the strength of ten men, crazy red antennae plaits for hair? Pippi lived with a horse and a monkey in a crazy offbeat house called Villa Villekula—or Villa Kunterbunt— if you grew up in Switzerland (in which case Pippi becomes Pippi Långstrump).

Radek Koblasa, who was born in Prague, but secreted away by his parents at the tender age of 9 months into Switzerland as communist tanks rolled into the streets of the Czech capital in 1968—grew up in Basel and always dreamed of living in a Villa Kunterbunt of his own. Several years ago, he pooled together with a few close friends and they set about making it happen.

Zurich’s industrial zone, Zurich West is fast becoming Zurich’s cultural Mecca: artists, architects, club owners, designers, immigrants, students—and whatever falls in between are lured to this seedier part of town by affordable rents, enormous loft spaces, club culture and a diversity boom in general. Here, Radek and friends bought a six story house on an indistinct block of gray residential buildings, and set about transforming it into storybook proportions. The result is six floors of five distinct living spaces; dream reflections of their inhabitants. Put it all together and Pippi would be proud.

1. Erhardt

Tell us your name—


And what do you do?

I’m a psychotherapist.

And what was your favorite book growing up?

You mean as a teenager? Narcissus and Goldmund by Herman Hesse.

What is it about?

It’s about two teenage boys, very different, who become friends. They lead different lives, one in a cloister—the other one having different relationships with women (really a freaky life). It really made an impression on me.

How would you describe your living aesthetic?

I like it pretty simple, pretty empty—I don’t like much stuff in the rooms. I like details like a single picture on the wall or a specific color on the sofa, or a distinct wallpaper. I love my fireplace.

This is the Rothko floor—

Yes this is the Rothko floor with red, pink and orange—

And a lot of light! Was Rothko a big influence on you? Are there other artists that helped form your aesthetic?

Mainly Rothko. In my early twenties I discovered him in a poster shop—and then I got to see exhibits, there was one in Basel and I specifically traveled to Paris to see another one that was touring. He’s my favorite painter.

2. Radek

Tell us your name—

My name is Radek

And what do you do?

For a living I’m an event manager —I have an event management company.

Did you have a favorite fairy tale or book when you were growing up?

Yes I had a favorite book—Pippi Longstocking and I also loved the TV series because that came out soon after the book and I was watching it all the time as well.

And this is where you got the idea for Villa Kunterbunt?


What does it mean—Villa Kunterbunt?

It’s a multi-colored place, where you can do whatever you want—a place without limits—

And this was a bit like that for you growing up in Basel, right?

My father’s house was a sort of Villa Kunterbunt. It was a house where you could do whatever you wanted.

Was your father also an artist?

Yes, in a way he was.

How would you describe your parents style, is it typically Czech?

It’s funny and very eclectic—it’s a mix of the Czech traditional style—and other stuff. My father didn’t grow up in Prague, he came from a village, and he liked the folkloristic style. He would collect those little glass tchotchkies they have. They always mixed it up…

So how do you describe your personal style?

It’s a mixture: I like it when its nicely designed with “trash” I bring from my travels. I never like it too “clean”.

Did you have any artists or designers that influenced you when you were growing up?

Not really—I always liked the furniture design from the 50s and the 60s, but not any particular designer.

You have seven people living in the house—how did you meet?

Menni, on the first floor I went to school with him, so I’ve known him for about twenty years; Tal upstairs, I’ve also known for about twenty years. She’s also originally from Basel, but then she moved back to Israel and now she’s back; Erhardt, my boyfriend—we’ve been together for seven years.

Menni downstairs and his girlfriend Jolsha have two kids—and you have a lot of fantastic wallpaper, what happens when they get to the age where they start writing on the walls—

(laughs) I’ll probably kill them.

But seriously, just in terms of being a big family, since the kids have access to all the floors—do you have protocols yet about handling children’s creative urges?

The good thing is there is just Noe —the older one—he can walk now, the other one is still a baby. So we have to find out how its going to work. Noe likes to move from one floor to another—and of course in my part of the house and theirs, he’s free to do anything he likes (as long as he doesn’t destroy anything.)

3. Julscha + Noe

Tell us your name

My name is Julscha

And you?


There’s another little boy sleeping—

But he can’t talk, can he? What do you do?

I’m a kindergarten teacher.

What was your favorite story book when you were growing up?

My favorite? It was Heidi.

(Noe) I like the Simpsons!

Noe likes Homer and Bart,

(Noe) and Marge!

You like all the Simpsons!

When you were decorating this space, what did you have in mind?

I didn’t have anything in mind. I just put together things I like.

What sort of things do you like?

Usually very strong colors, but now I’m getting back to green and white and natural colors and fewer strong colors.

You also have this fantastic wallpaper here, which Radek told me you got from Berlin, what happens when Noe starts to become artistic?

I hope he doesn’t! (laughs) I am always painting with him and explaining about being careful. But I believe that the house is for living and not for keeping clean all the time…

Noe, what do you think of the house?

I like it!

Which floor do you like the best?


(Julscha)He’s in love now with Tal.

4. Tal

Your name?


What do you do for a living?

I’m starting to freelance in marketing and event planning. That’s just one part of what I’d like to do—I have different ideas—like making wedding cakes for example. I’m just starting up and I’m making one cake in a few months for a couple of people that I know. I just like living and enjoying life as much as possible.

Tell me about making wedding cakes.

I’m doing a special request for three cakes–two of which I’ve never done in my life—a carrot cake and a fruitcake, so I’ve been doing some research—mainly asking people that I know for recipes and trying them out and next week I’m meeting the people who are getting married—for them to taste my cakes first. And then I’ll be experimenting with decorations because I’ve never done it. I like baking, but I’ve never done the ornamental stuff.

So what would be your dream wedding cake to make?

Oh, I don’t really think it matters—what I love doing is just playing around with the ingredients and the decorations. So I guess it’s whatever the people getting married want, combined with my creativity. And I’m at the start, so I’m still trying out and finding my style in a way.

It’s not a profession you hear that much about–unless of course you’re an event marketer—

Yes! And I’ve been to a million weddings too!! Everyone in the house is always making fun of me “Another wedding, Tal?”

It’s just something that’s developed, I never thought of it as profession, but I really enjoy doing it—I love to cook and baking is something I discovered in the past three, four years.

What sort of cuisine are you interested in?

Everything! I have very mixed origins: my mom’s Moroccan, I grew up in Israel—so I like middle eastern naturally, but I also love Swiss, French, Italian (of course!) I just love food. I love playing with the ingredients and I love, love, love having people over.

Where have you lived?

I’ve lived in Israel and in Canada very briefly because my dad’s from there—Germany and Switzerland those are the main places.

When you were growing up, was there a particular book or fairytale that captured your imagination?

Hmmm. I can’t remember.

There must have been one. The one you asked for over and over—

You know what, there’s one that struck me when I was a kid just because the other kids teased me—saying I was the same girl in the book–not sure how you say her name in English, but it’s the girl with the red hair and the braids—I think it’s a Scandinavian story and she has like this crazy house–she’s an orphan, owns a big horse, dresses funny—

You mean Pippi Longstocking?

Yes that’s her! Of course!!

You have to imagine, when I was eight we lived in a funny old house with a lot of stairs that looked a little crazy. Back then I used to dress crazily, I know from my mom that my teachers always used to ask who dressed me up! And my mom would say, “You know, she chooses her own clothes…” Plus I had sort of long reddish hair. I’ve always felt a little like her—even though Switzerland has turned me into a different person over the years–but I’m finding my way back.